Groucho: the life and times of Julius Henry Marx
The temptation is to start with a classic wisecrack: One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas I don't know. But Groucho Marx, like Stefan Kanfer's superb biography, consists of much more than just jokes. Underneath the most famous Marx brother's oneliners and carefree attitude was a life dominated by deep sadness, professional dissatisfaction, and personal turmoil. Beginning with the Marx Brothers' family heritage and their youth in turn-of-the-century New York, we see Julius and his brothers Adolph and Leonard become Groucho, Harpo, and Chico. We go backstage as they develop their routines in vaudeville, on Broadway, and, finally, in Hollywood. Groucho's story unfolds against the backdrop of the changing world around him and his star-studded milieu, which includes other classic comic figures such as Charlie Chaplin and W. C. Fields, as well as great names like Ben Hecht, George Gershwin, and even T. S. Eliot. Kanfer delves into Groucho's complicated relationships with the people around him his failed marriages, his destructive behavior toward his children, his clashes with the self-indulgent Chico. The Brothers become the biggest movie stars in the world a success bitterly followed by slow decline as age, years of profligacy, and ego all catch up with them. Finally, we witness Groucho's extraordinary resurrection coming back from the career-dead to host the television quiz showYou Bet Your Life,which cements his legendary status in American culture. Groucho Marx proved that comedy could be raucous, sophisticated, and wildly unexpected all at once.Grouchoraises the curtain on this icon of twentieth-century cynicism and irreverence in an authoritative, affectionate, and unsparingly honest look behind the cigar.